Featured Volunteer Cathy Kaman Ryan
October’s National Volunteer Spotlight shines this month on Cathy Kaman Ryan, an early member of TPP living in Rochester, New York. Cathy joined The Preemie Project in the Summer of 2005 while the organization was still in its infancy. Her interest developed years after the birth and death of her premature daughter, Kelly Harrington Ryan, born October 30, 1982, at 26 and ½ weeks. She lived only five short days but instilled in her mother an abiding sense of gratitude and appreciation for the care and skills of the hospital staff at her local neo-natal intensive care nursery. And she has never forgotten the heartache, longing and isolation that are the hallmarks of parents caring for their precious tiny babies.
Cathy has been a lifelong crocheter and by 2005 her children and friends had more afghans than they could possibly use or enjoy. That Summer, she began looking for an opportunity to provide blankets to a charitable organization. She stumbled upon The Preemie Project while surfing the Internet one night and its goals and mission matched her desire to help others facing the challenges that come with delivering a premature baby. When Cathy’s daughter was born, there were no clothes sized to fit a one pound, six ounce baby, no miniature blankets and no right-sized diapers. Kelly was buried in a massive receiving blanket that dwarfed her tiny body. Through The Preemie Project, Cathy relishes being able to touch parents in times of stress and crisis.
Cathy’s heartbreak losing Kelly was followed by the blessings of two wonderful children. Her daughter, Kerry, is 25 years old and a first year veterinary student at Cornell University. Her son, Kevin (“KC”), hopes to become a City of Rochester firefighter. Cathy is a full-time partner in a large law firm in Rochester concentrating on a commercial real estate law practice. She encourages people in her firm to donate hand-made articles to The Preemie Project and is a missionary spreading the word of the organization and its goals to her friends and colleagues in Rochester. In addition to crocheting for relaxation, she also loves to read and tries to spend an hour each day working out in a local gym.
Every box of blankets sent to Iowa is sent from Cathy with heartfelt love and appreciation for the extraordinary efforts of Laura Aker and her fantastic Mom, Linda. Cathy’s “job” is easy; she makes hand made items at her own pace and then packs and send them off to Coralville. There the hard work begins as the Aker women and dozens of dedicated volunteers organize and collect the donations and arrange delivery of same. In addition, they manage fund raising, correspondence and communications, website maintenance, and a thousand other details. Cathy is thrilled to play a small part in an organization that has had such a profound impact on the lives of so many and looks forward to many years of future involvement in The Preemie Project.